Adobe Comp CC review: Quickly sketch out InDesign drafts on an iPad

30 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Adobe Comp CC review: Quickly sketch out InDesign drafts on an iPad.

Adobe’s renewed push into mobile has produced a veritable fleet of slick iOS apps aimed at creative artists, but has thus far neglected designers who rely upon traditional page layout software. The last time we saw Comp CC, the newest tool in Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite, it was called LayUp, and creator Khoi Vinh had just demoed it at Adobe MAX 2014.Today, March 30, 2015, Adobe announced the launch of its impressive new layout design iPad app, Comp CC, free for all Creative Cloud members to download from the Apple App Store.Adobe today released a new iPad app dubbed Comp CC that offers “rapid creation of layout concepts for mobile, Web and print projects” that can later be used in Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC and InDesign CC. Comp CC, which is now available for the iPad, makes it easier for designers to take their design ideas for new websites, mobile apps and print from the back of a napkin (or in this case the iPad) to production.

Instead of being chained to the desktop while roughing out an initial draft, designers can now create more freely from nearly anywhere using only an iPad, safe in the knowledge the work they’ve done so far will actually be part of the final project. Comp CC (as in Creative Cloud—the surname of most of Adobe’s applications these days) lets designers draw on the tablet with some key assists and assets, and then continue working on the ideas in the more powerful desktop applications, InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop CC. As Adobe principal product manager Will Eisley told me last week, the company believes that creatives now look at mobile as an extension of their creative workflow.

The app, announced today, gives the designer access to brand assets and exact color values stored in his or her Adobe Creative Profile and Creative Cloud Libraries. With Comp CC, designers can use simple gesture vocabulary to bring in assets from the Creative Cloud library, draw vector shapes, add images, use brushes, and edit objects. With touch devices there’s this opportunity to get the best of both worlds, and to work as quickly as you could on paper, and be as disposable as paper.” With Comp, Adobe wants to augment its role in the designer’s workflow.

In addition, Comp CC distinguishes itself from the current line-up of mobile apps because it integrates with Typekit, providing access to Adobe’s library of high-quality fonts directly on an iPad. And a member’s Creative Profile surfaces their libraries, as they move from app-to-app and desktop-to-device, in the right context — enabling members to effortlessly work across devices and apps. This isn’t quite a stripped-down version of Adobe InDesign CC, although the company has done an exceptional job of keeping things nimble while retaining core tools designers depend on. To get started, choose from a variety of preset layout sizes for the most common web, page, or iOS devices, or create your own custom dimensions from scratch.

Eisely explained, “What we think we’ve enabled with Comp is a brand new workflow that allows designers to start the ideation process on their iPads, allows them to integrate their professional assets that they are using on the desktop including Typekit fonts, and then finally they can continue that work on the desktop.” Currently, designers can export from Comp CC by emailing a design, by sharing a design on Adobe’s online platform Behance, and by transferring files to a desktop computer. For now, projects are limited to a single page, and you’ll want to keep a conversion wheel handy, because points are the only measurement supported.

Adobe has been busy churning out mobile design apps, including Illustrator Draw, Illustrator Line, Photoshop Sketch, Adobe Shape CC, and Adobe Color CC. Layouts are automatically saved to a user’s Creative Cloud account when closed, and Adobe includes a fully editable sample comp from each layout category to demonstrate what the app is capable of. (While you need a Creative Cloud account to use Comp CC, you don’t need to be a paying Creative Cloud subscriber. Eisley also mentioned, “we very purposely built Comp CC to be able to go to other desktop applications in the future.” Adobe collaborated on the app development with acclaimed New York-based graphic designer Khoi Vinh, who is the former New York Times design director and, in 2011, was named by Fast Company as one of “The 50 Most Influential Designers in America.” With the intention of solving issues that graphic designers are facing in their mobile and desktop workflows, Vinh says, “I saw an opportunity for a product that could make the creative process much richer and more immediate — while still being complementary to designers’ existing workflows.” But to open files from the desktop apps on the iPad, you do need a paid subscription.) In Editing mode, Comp CC enables designers to dummy up designs using stock placeholders for image frames, text, lines, and shapes.

Comp CC was previewed in a sneak peek at Adobe’s MAX conference last fall under the code name “Project LayUp.” The app performs some processing in the cloud, so users will need a live Internet connection while using it. As with pretty much everything coming out of Adobe lately, Comp CC also requires an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, and it is available starting today on the iTunes App Store. Using technology first demoed at last year’s Adobe MAX conference, the app automatically converts finger doodles into clean vector objects right before your eyes. While in Drawing mode, a squiggle drawn over existing elements erases them instead. (A Trash button is also available in Editing mode.) Two- and three-finger gestures can be used to undo or redo one or more steps, and there’s even a combination for adding a block of placeholder text (draw three horizontal lines, followed by a dot). While basic shapes require minimal effort, I found myself frequently consulting the in-app cheat sheet when drawing image placeholders, which require more complicated gestures.

Every interaction was built with speed in mind. “Why would we need to tap on a menu item to generate a circle,” Vinh said when we first saw the app. “Why wouldn’t we draw it?” Everything created in Comp can be quickly exported to other Adobe apps and finished on a desktop. No layout app would be complete without text formatting options, and Adobe Comp CC solves this problem brilliantly by reaching into Creative Cloud’s vast library of Typekit fonts.

That’s still here, of course, but Comp has a more explicit gesture vocabulary, so a designer can learn a shorthand that allows adding details like rounded corners. One thing missing is a way to preview cloud fonts already available in an account prior to downloading them first, but Typekit offers a more pleasant selection experience anyway, making it a breeze to search for and add new typefaces from there.

The team didn’t want to see how much of Photoshop and InDesign they could squeeze in, he told me, but instead focus on the basic things you want to specify when you ideate. You won’t find all of InDesign CC’s rich text editing tools here, but the included paragraph indentation, line and letter spacing, and type styles more than get the job done. Once the team identified the problem, Adobe set him up with a prototype and quickly landed on what Eisley called a “quick and dirty prototype.” Then, Adobe user-tested this first idea over the course of the summer. It’s hardly glamorous, but provides the seamlessness that is key to making a mobile experience work—and Adobe is committed to making it work. “Connected creativity, or the notion of creative profile library,” says Adobe VP Will Eisley, “That’s really the core of what the Adobe vision is.” In this way, Adobe offers a new perspective on the iPad’s value proposition, which has been murky since its debut five years ago.

Eisley and Vinh know this—Vinh even wrote about it on his blog Subtraction last year—and remain undeterred. “The idea is that it lets you do what you do on paper,” Vinh says. “Setting up a specific dimension for the workspace, I think that’s really hard to do on a big phone.

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